By Adam Aasen
After sitting in committee for about two years, the city’s comprehensive plan was approved by the Carmel City Council at its July 7 meeting.
Numerous adjustments were made to this massive planning document, including maintaining a commitment to bike lanes throughout the city.
But it almost didn’t go through.
Mayor Jim Brainard threatened to veto the plan because of a last-second removal of some proposed roundabouts.
As it turns out, according to state law, the changes to the planning code cannot be vetoed because the mayor’s signature is not required. So there’s nothing he can do to stop the council.
For months, city councilors debated changes to the document and for most of the time the hot issue wasn’t roundabouts, but whether increased construction of bike lanes would cut into residents’ yards or create narrow, dangerous roads. In the end, compromises were made street by street, and the plan received a unanimous favorable recommendation coming out of committee.
At the meeting, Councilor Luci Snyder proposed an amendment to remove any plans for a roundabout at Carmel Drive and Range Line Road. She said it’s better to have an intersection where people can stop and see the Arby’s, Noodles & Company, True Barbers and various other businesses. She said business owners don’t want to see motorists zooming past their locations. Plus the construction would lead to road closures.
But Brainard disputed these assertions, saying there’s no proof that roundabouts are bad for business corridors. He said the benefits of roundabouts include reduction in traffic accidents, less congestion and removal of overhanging lights that can be an eyesore.
Plus, the roundabout was already paid for through federal money, Brainard said.
He said he would hate to lose that money, especially for a project he believes in. He also said for traffic flow purposes it wouldn’t make sense to remove the Carmel Drive roundabout from the planning document when there’s another proposed roundabout at Executive Drive right before it. Snyder then made a motion to remove both roundabouts.
The council voted 4-2 to approve the amendment and 6-0 to approve the amended bill.
Councilors Ron Carter and Kevin “Woody” Rider voted against the amendment and Sue Finkham was absent.
Rider told the council he doesn’t like Carmel Drive roundabout but feels the comprehensive plan is just a guideline and just because a roundabout is in the plan doesn’t mean there’s a mandate to construct one.
Brainard told the Current in Carmel a few days later that he is exploring ways to construct those roundabouts even if they aren’t in the plan. He said he will try to convince the council to approve the projects, which are not forbidden, they just aren’t in the plan.
If he doesn’t have the votes, he said he will be patient. Council and business opinions can change and elections can shift power.